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'Wait For Me, Daddy' iconic WWII photo unveiled as sculpture

10/03/2014 09:10 EDT | Updated 12/03/2014 05:59 EST
It was a single photograph, but it captured so much about family, separation and the uncertainty of war.

In 1940, as hundreds of solders marched through the streets of New Westminster, a five-year-old boy broke free from his mother's hand and ran after his father, who would eventually head off to battle in Europe.

Warren 'Whitey' Bernard was that little boy, and his father was Private Jack Bernard.

The photo, called 'Wait For Me, Daddy', made the front page of the Vancouver Daily Province the next day, but photographer Claude Dettloff likely had no idea it would soon appear in newspapers across North America, hang in every classroom in B.C. and grace the pages of the venerable Life Magazine.

Now that photograph will be immortalized in the form of a series of bronze statues on the very corner where the picture was taken.

Whitey Bernard, now 79, remembers the moment he saw his father march past.

"Grandpa came around in his old '34 Chev and picked us up and took us out to New West. I guess I got it in my head that, you know, he was gonna vanish at this point," Bernard said.

So, the little boy took off.

Charlie Bernhardt of "C" Company, number 14 Platoon, was among the hundreds of soldiers marching past. He saw little Whitey break free and make a run for it toward his father. In fact, Whitey's father helped Bernhardt enlist.

"Just like the fellas, the people in uniform in that picture. There were causalities there too and on the home front — with the families there were causalities there too," said Bernhardt.

Photo used to sell Victory Bonds

While Private Bernard was away, times were tight for Whitey and his mother, Bernice, but they were also exciting. For two years, Whitey and the now-famous photo, were used to sell government Victory Bonds to help pay for the war effort.

Public events would include entertainers, but Whitey would be brought on stage at the end to make the final pitch.

"At the end of the show they had a huge, big mock-up of the picture and they would unveil it and I would come out and say my 'buy-a-bond today and bring-my-daddy home' speech," he recalls.

"When you look at the picture," little Whitey would tell the crowd, "please think of all Canada's little boys and girls who, like myself, want their daddies home. That's why we ask you to put 'Victory' first."

The story has a bittersweet ending. Private Bernard came back home safely and was reunited with Whitey. However, the couple's marriage didn't survive the war.

The City of New Westminster commissioned artists to recreate the photograph in a series of three bronze statues, situated on the same corner where the picture was taken.

For more than a year, Canadian Edwin Dam de Nogales and his wife, Veronica, have been working on the statues in their studio in Barcelona, Spain.

The statues will be unveiled at a special ceremony on Saturday, October 4th, at 11:00 a.m.

Canada Post will also be unveiling a special commemorative stamp at the event, featuring the iconic photograph. As well, the Royal Canadian Mint will unveil a two-dollar coin featuring the image.

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